Amazon Kindle (2014) Review

Kindle LogoArriving in 2007 with its e-paper display, the Amazon Kindle revolutionised reading and has become almost synonymous with e-readers. Seven years on, there’s been a steady evolution of the Kindle, introducing whiter screens, backlights and touch. On review here is the Kindle, 2014 edition. This is the standard model – not the Paperwhite, not the Voyage – so let’s take a look at what Amazon has done this time round.

Kindle with Box

The headline news for the Kindle e-reader is that it now has a touch screen and the power button is the only moving part on the e-reader. This brings touch right across the Amazon range, and while some diehards may mourn the demise of the buttons, navigating round the Kindle is much easier. Besides, whenever I had anything go wrong with electronic devices, it was always the buttons.

Kindle Library

In other news, the Kindle has picked up the same design cues as the Fire tablets with a slightly chunkier look and the bevelled plastic back of its siblings. The new Kindle is perhaps not as svelte as previous iterations, it’s still light at 191 g. Reviewing the exterior, there’s not much to talk about – 6″ 800 x 600 Pearl e-paper screen, micro USB socket, power button and reset hole. That’s it, but that’s all you need. There’s no backlight on this model, so no reading in the dark.

Kindle Bottom

Speaking of what you need, potential purchasers should note that there’s only a charging cable in the box and there’s no charger. This has been the case with Kindles for some time now but I thought I’d mention it to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Getting started with the Kindle is easy. Hook up to a wi-fi connection (b/g/n) and then enter Amazon credentials to see all the literature on the account. 3G is no longer an option but given the ubiquitous nature of wif-fi, I doubt anyone will miss it. As with the Fire tablets, there’s a clear distinction between content on device and content in the cloud but it’s a simple tap to switch views. There’s 4 GB of storage standing by for holiday reading and for ordinary novels, 4 GB goes a very long way.

Without the buttons, how does one navigate? At the “home” level, it’s a case of tapping on icons as if it were a full-blown tablet. Once in a book, it’s tap on the right to go forward, tap on the left to go back and tap at the top to get the menu bar up. From here you can leave the book or adjust settings. While taps are reliably recorded, the response time isn’t quite up there with a tablet but it’s still quick enough and it’s not unsurprising given the limitations of e-paper. The presentation of the books can be adjusted with six different typefaces, eight text sizes, three line spaces and three margin settings.

In addition to books, the Kindle brings into the hand much of the Amazon experience. It’s easy to shop for new books, especially now with the touch screen, and features such as Kindle for Kids and Household registration will be familiar to users of the Amazon Fire. X-Ray is present too, providing a ready reckoner for characters, plot points and referenced terms: it’s handy, especially when reading a new genre of book or hitting a series midway through. Kindle FreeTime helps parents set reading targets for children and rewards the children with badges when they hit their goals.

Shop Kindle

As with all previous Kindles, the e-reader is designed to work with ebooks bought from Amazon. Books from other on-line stores can’t usually be loaded unless they’re DRM-free and there’s no Overdrive app for library books.

Overall, the new Kindle is a satisfactory evolution of the entry level model and the touchscreen makes the e-reader easier to use, especially when browsing for books. Currently priced with a £10 discount for Mother’s Day, the Kindle is priced at GB£49 with special offers and £59 without ads. Even without the £10 offer, it’s a great value product.

Thanks to Amazon for the Kindle review unit.

GNC #1015 Apple Mania Maybe?

I am getting the feeling the Apple announcements are going to be very limited. Only time will tell. I will be in Phoenix driving some new Ford vehicles and meeting up with the Gadget professor. Video to follow on that. We had an incredible sponsor month in February and I want to thank you all for your amazing support of GoDaddy you really made a big difference.

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Google Cloud Accidentally Endorses Gamergate

Google Cloud Platform logo on TwitterThe official Google Cloud Platform Twitter account posted a rather confusing tweet that included a controversial hashtag today. It’s unclear exactly what message they were intending to send with that particular tweet, but it definitely got a lot of attention. This situation is a good example of why brands should take the time to understand a hashtag before including it in a tweet.

The tweet has since been deleted from Twitter but is (at the time I am writing this article) viewable on Archive.today. The image in the tweet shows a video game controller being held by two hands, both of which are “Simpson’s yellow”. One hand has painted nails and a bracelet, the other does not.

Google Cloud Platform deleted this tweet

The tweet includes the #GamerGate. TIME has an article that offers a good explanation of what GamerGate is, how it got started, and the kinds of things people who identify themselves as in support of GamerGate have done.

It appears that whomever posted the tweet with the #GamerGate on the official Google Cloud Platform Twitter account may have been unaware of what GamerGate is or the controversy that surrounds it. Someone at Google didn’t take the time to Google GamerGate before including it in a tweet.

The tweet was deleted and a new tweet appeared with what seems to be an apology. The new tweet calls the previous tweet “a mistake”. It also clarifies that “We do not support #GamerGate.”

Google Cloud Platform clarifies

This situation is one that brands, and individuals, can learn from. Don’t include a hashtag in your tweet unless you have taken the time to research what that hashtag is about. Google it. Read some articles. At the very least, see who else is using that hashtag and what they are saying. Doing so can prevent you from making the mistake that someone behind the Google Cloud Platform Twitter account made today.

Robot Underpants: 03.04.15 (191) “This Week in Uncle Buck”

Baron Mat “Langley” Luschek, “Starman” Michael Gaines and Kathy Hopkins bring you the stories you’ve already heard and the stories you haven’t heard from the past week, including: ID4:2 news, Skymall, Uncle Buck news, Spock dies, Avengers news and more!

* Independence Day 2 Casting
* Vince Vaughn Stock Images
* CG Pubes
* ‘Community’ on Yahoo Trailer
* Nimoy Dies
* Uncle Buck News
* Avengers Final Trailer
* Skymall

Stan Lee to Teach Online Course

Stan-Lee

Comic book legend Stan Lee is teaming up with the Smithsonian Institution to teach a five week course on the rise of superhero culture.

The online course is open to all ages, and is delivered via video lectures and interviews, interactive exercises, curated links and readings, and online discussion with course faculty and students from around the world.

Upon completion, graduates will receive a certificate featuring original artwork and Stan’s signature.

“It’s a great honor being invited to share my views on the evolution of superheroes and the genre’s overall impact across all generations of people,” said Stan Lee. “Throughout my career, characters have evolved so much – from drawings on a page to other-worldly special effects only animation could produce, to live-action and so much more. I can’t wait to dive into these discussions thanks to Smithsonian and edX.”

For more information, you can visit the “Rise of the Superhero” sign up page.

Pelican Voyager iPad Air Case Review

pelicanFor years I have hauled my electronics gear all over the planet in Pelican shipping cases. They are the gold standard when you want your gear to get from point a to b in one piece. When I was in the Navy they shipped stuff by the truckload in pelican cases.

Now Pelican is taking the same shipping case technology and down sizing it to mobile device cases that can protect your phone and tablets. Over the past two weeks I have had my iPad Air 2 encased in a Pelican Voyager iPad Air Case, and I can tell you that I have no doubt that my device is as protected as it can be.

The case comes with soft inner shell to nestle your iPad in, with a rugged yet pliable exterior that protects the device edges and sides from impacts. The screen is slight recessed to protect the glass as well. The kickstand on the back of the case allows you to prop the device up for easy viewing.

The case has been designed, and tested to handle mil spec drops, shock absorption and deflect energy from impacts into the case and not the device. While the case is a little thicker than some plastic cases, this case was designed for folks that need an extra layer of protection yet is stylish enough that it would be out of place in a office environment. The buttons on your iPad are easy to manage  through the inner pliable layer, and their is a non obstructing camera port.

The case comes with a lifetime guarantee, you break it they will replace the case. Retailing for around $80.00 with various retailers you cannot go wrong after all it’s made by the folks who set the gold standard in shipping cases and now mobile device cases.

GNC #1014 RIP Spock

I touched a nerve on the last show. Some great email comments and debate on the FCC actions. I also pay tribute to Leonard Nimoy aka Spock on his passing plus all the tech news you can handle. This is a feisty one folks strap in.

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Blizzard Fights Gold Sellers with WoW Token

Blizzard GoldBlizzard Entertainment is about to enable World of Warcraft players to securely purchase gold and to use their gold to buy game time. Something new, called a WoW Token, will make it harder for the illegal gold sellers to find people to scam. Why bother with gold sellers when the WoW Token will safely enable a player to purchase gold?

The concept behind the WoW Token is not new. Eve Online uses a similar system called PLEX. Wildstar uses a similar system called C.R.E.D.D.. However, this is the first time that something like this will be available to World of Warcraft players.

How does the WoW Token work? A player that needs more gold will be able to buy a WoW Token from the in game shop. That person can then sell the WoW Token in a special portion of the in game Auction House for gold. The player will get a quote of how much gold they will receive if another player buys that WoW Token.

Need game time, but don’t have enough real-world currency to purchase it? A player in that situation can buy a WoW Token from a special portion of the in game Auction House. The player can then redeem the WoW Token for 30 days of game time.

The cost of the WoW Token is going to be set by Blizzard Entertainment based on an algorithm that considers supply and demand. That means that players won’t have to bid for a WoW Token (like they can for other Auction House items). It also means that individual players won’t be able to set the price for the WoW Token they want to sell on the Auction House.

Best of all, the WoW Tokens, once purchased, cannot be sold directly to another player. They will be account bound. This makes it impossible for third-party illegal gold sellers to buy up all the WoW Tokens on the Auction House in an attempt to make money from them.

Booking.com Launches Booking Now App

Booking.com logoI was somewhat surprised to learn that 50% of travel bookings made within 48 hours of departure are booked on a mobile device. On reflection, it’s perhaps not that surprising, given that the spontaneous decision to travel is likely to be followed up immediately, rather than waiting to get home to get the laptop out.

It’s with this opportunity in mind that accommodation site Booking.com has launched Booking Now, an instant booking app that can get a place to stay in as little as two taps. After a successful launch in the US and Canada, the app is now available in the UK for iOS devices with an Android version to follow. The app’s built-in intelligence, along with GPS, helps it choose the best properties based on your preferences from over 600,000 properties in 70,000 destinations.

Booking Now - Booking.com UK imageWith the launch of Booking Now, we’re increasing our investment in mobile by leveraging our global scale, assets and partnerships to accommodate the growing number of customers who are booking reservations within two days or less of their stay,” said Darren Huston, Chief Executive Officer of Booking.com. “The new app puts users at the centre of the booking experience, drawing from our vast database of properties to meet their specific preferences at the very moment they need to book. Booking Now is designed to deliver a seamless mobile experience for spontaneous consumers, fitting perfectly into their multi-device, on-demand lifestyle.

Booking Now personalises real-time search results based on the traveller profile created by each user when they first start to use the app. The profile indicates specific accommodation preferences, such as budget and options like parking, included breakfast and wifi. Users are then presented with the most relevant accommodation available based on profile and location. The traveller can then modify their choice of accommodation to suit their itinerary and the places that they want to see. With Booking Now’s predictive analytics, the more frequently customers use the app, the more personalised their recommended matches become. Additionally, as user’s swipe through the app, they can pin their top hotel choice to the map so they can see where the hotel is relative to their location or other attractions.

The Booking Now app can be downloaded from the relevant app stores – iOS only for now with Android coming soon.

If only I had more time and more money to be spontaneous!

Dell XPS 13 Experience

dellxpsOver the past 3 weeks I have been using a Dell XPS 13 provided by Dell as my primary laptop. Over the last couple of years I have switched between a Macbook and a Windows laptop.

I was honestly skeptical that I would like the smaller form factor as I have always had big screen laptops. In a very short time I have absolutely fallen in love with the Dell XPS. Let me share a little about the tech specs . The machine that Dell sent me again was the XPS 13 with an Intel 5th gen core processor, 8GB of ram, 256GB SSD Drive, backpack, transport sleeve & power companion. It came with Microsoft Office loaded and of course Windows 8.1

My first impression pulling it out of the box was wow this thing is lightweight weighing in @ 2.6 pounds, very  sturdy with aluminium and composite materials . Boot up time was incredibly fast, and what really blew me away was the screen. The Dell team spared no expense in getting the monitor to have absolutely minimal edge distance from screen border to the edge of the lid.

Their engineering team stuffed a 13.3 inch display in what would normally be a 11 inch ultrabook form factor. The Dell XPS 13 is currently the smallest 13 inch laptop on the planet. A buddy of mine with a Macbook Air was really wowed with the screen resoltion and form factor. With 5.7 Million pixels the Quad HD+ display is 4.4 million more pixels than the MacBook Air.

In the past when I left the house I would pack up the laptop and the power supply which usually weighs as much as a laptop, the Dell XPS 13 power supply is another home run it’s not much bigger than a cell phone charger. Even as small as the charger is I started leaving the charger at home during the day after a trip to California. Here is my battery usage case. I spent 2+ hours at the departing airport on the XPS working due to a flight delay. I then used the laptop on the Aircraft WiFi for about 5 hours catching up on email, Google docs etc.. Then when I arrived at my hotel late in the evening, I checked email and did a lengthy Skype video call to my wife all the while on battery.  I went to bed forgetting to plug in the laptop and charge it. Running a bit late in the morning, I left the hotel with the battery still having about 30% charge. I used the laptop on and off that day only reverting to charge it with the Dell Power Companion in the early evening. In summary the battery life is simply incredible I really do not know how they do it.

My usage of the laptop has largely been web based and a handful of applications including an Autocad drawing reader. I did do a little bit of Audio editing with Adobe Audition, and the laptop performed as I would expect for a Intel i5. If I was going to be doing any heavy video editing I would likely want the i7 version of the XPS. The team at Dell put a lot of thought into this laptop the keyboard is remarkable I do not say that lightly as I am pretty picky. I used both an external mouse and the trackpad and had no issues either way. Nothing to really add about the touch screen as it performs as advertised.

I have received a lot of compliments and questions asked about the XPS  when I have been out in public it attracts attention. I feel very comfortable travelling with the laptop and feel that it will handle what I will be throwing at it. The transition to the smaller screen was not an issue with the incredible screen resolution. It sure makes my mobile bag much lighter leaving me room for other gear.

As configured my laptop specs out a $1140 prices start though at $799, you can get your own at one of these two fine online locations Dell or Microsoft. There is quite a back story to the Dell XPS that is a worth read and of course check out the XPS product page.  This laptop has received a lot of awards and now I know why.

Disclaimer: Dell has provided for free the XPS and accessories for this review. All Geek News Central Reviews are done so under real world conditions and not in some lab. All opinions are those of the author.